Medical Marijuana Does Not Affect Teen Use

One of the common arguments used by those that oppose medical marijuana is that medical marijuana reform would lead to increased teen drug use, but the facts just don’t bear out those assumptions. A recent study published in Lancet Psychiatry has found that the legalization of medical marijuana does not increase teen marijuana use.

The study was conducted over a 24-year period, starting in 1991, and over one million children from grades 8, 10 and 12 were randomly surveyed about their marijuana use in the previous 30 days. While use of marijuana was slightly higher in states with medical marijuana, those rates were higher before medical marijuana laws were passed and overall researchers found the difference insignificant.

Marijuana use among children in grade 8 actually declined once medical marijuana was legalized, but there were no changes among grades 10 and 12.

Overall, there is a trend of increased teen marijuana use, but alcohol, nicotine and opioid use declined over that same period. Essentially, teenagers are giving up dangerous drugs and using marijuana instead.

While marijuana supporters are cheering the results, those opposed to marijuana reform are still shaking their heads in disagreement. Notorious marijuana opponent and president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, Kevin Sabet, spoke with the The New York Times about the study.

“Medical marijuana laws vary drastically across the U.S. and often take years to be implemented,” Sabet said. “[S]o what we need to see is the longer-term effects of these laws and the accompanying commercialization efforts, which this study does not do.”

If a 24-year study with a sample size of one million people is not enough to convince critics like Sabet, one has to wonder what it will take to persuade legalization opponents.

Speaking with, Roseanne Scotti, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Drug Policy Alliance, said that this study vindicates her organization’s message. “This is exactly what we have been saying for 10 years,” Scotti said. “In states working to legalize medical marijuana this could give thoughtful legislators comfort in passing these laws.”

The biggest take away from this study is the effect it will have on legislative and electoral efforts to legalize medical marijuana. This is one of the most thorough marijuana studies to date and it seriously stymies the “Think of the Children” argument. Entrenched interests may not be convinced, but those on the fence should be, which is exactly whom the industry needs in order to move forward with reform.

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